Omega Strike (Xbox One) REVIEW – More Alpha Than Omega
Omega Strike is pretty fun, though it's hampered by half baked Metroidvania ideas.
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Review code provided
There have been plenty of games over the years that have attempted to capture the magic that is the Metroidvania genre. Some have been successful, such as Shadow Complex, while others have fall a little bit short of the mark. For all its charm and unique ideas, Omega Strike is one of those games.
Taking place in the distant future, probably, Omega Strike puts you in control of the last vestiges of the human resistance, in a world dominated by Doctor Omega. Omega used an army of mutants that he created to take control of the planet, and it’s up to you to inform him that he’s a bit of a dick and should curb that behaviour.
Omega Strike is a Metroidvania game in the purest form imaginable. As you make progress through the game and unlock new abilities, you can revisit previous areas and gain access to more areas with more bosses and abilities, and the cycle unfolds for the rest of the game. So far, so good.
The action plays out like a typical 2D shooter, similar to the likes of Metroid, Contra, Metal Slug; you get the picture. You’ll be running, jumping, shooting and even exploding your way through legions of mutant hordes in your pursuit of Doctor Omega.
Omega Strike adds a new dimension to proceedings with the introduction of three playable characters that you can switch to at any time. Sarge is your standard machine gun toting lad, while Dex holds a shotgun and has a double jump. Lastly, Bear is the muscle of the squad, able to move huge obstacles like they’re nothing. He also has a handy grenade launcher weapon, which allows him to kill enemies below him.
Along the way, you’ll unlock new abilities for each character. Sarge is able to crawl through low spaces, Bear can use explosives to open up new paths and Dex gets a dash mechanic that can be used in platforming and in combat.
In theory, you’d use each character’s ability as you progress, swapping between each as the situation arises, and while that is the case for the most part, there appears to be a disparity in who gets what skills. For instance, Sarge can crawl through small spaces, use his gun to break down objects in the environment and he can hang onto certain poles in the environment. All Dex and Bear get are the aforementioned dash and explosives.
Honestly, it feels like the developers are trying to force players to use Sarge more, as Dex’s double jump and shotgun can solve most of the problems in the game; both platforming and enemies alike. If you could also hang on poles like Sarge, you wouldn’t need any other character. Meanwhile, poor old Bear gets the least playtime, wheeled out only when there’s a enemy below you or when there’s a big rock in the way. Poor big guy.
To the game’s credit, Omega Strike boasts some beautiful pixel graphics with plenty of vivid colours and impressive backgrounds. The soundtrack is also decent, with plenty of catchy tunes to hum along to as you slaughter Doctor Omega’s forces. It’s a good job they’re good anyway, because you’ll be hearing an awful lot of them.
Despite showing the knowledge and core understanding of what it means to be a Metroidvania title, Omega Strike is still missing a lot of quality of life improvements that other games in the genre consider as standard.
For example, the world map expands as you explore the game world, like every other game in the genre, but the only things marked are save points and entrances/exits. In other games, like basically every Metroid game ever, doors and obstacles are marked depending on the ability required, which makes backtracking for secrets a less arduous process. That feature is completely missing from Omega Strike.
Also, for some weird reason, Omega Strike doesn’t allow you to set your own default controller bindings, meaning you have to spend the game stuck with jump mapped to the A button and shoot mapped to X, otherwise known as the awful Cuphead default controls. You can also shoot using RB, but the game does little to indicate that to you, and it doesn’t feel as natural as it would on the right trigger.
Lastly, the level design for the first couple of bosses displays the usual “loop” you’d expect from this kind of game (you kill a boss then a new passageway opens up that takes you back to near the start, but Omega Strike sort of abandons that towards the second half. Unless you have Emergency Beacons from the store, you’re hiking it back home.
Though the building blocks were put in place for Omega Strike to be a worthwhile addition to an alread crowded genre, with some fun shoot ‘em up gameplay and fantastic graphical quality, it unfortunately squanders that with some poorly implemented design choices which make exploration and backtracking feel more like a chore.